We really hope you aren't burnt out on 2015 travel bucket lists -- because we're certain you've never seen one as meaningful and impactful as this one. See, we're not just here to talk about 2015's up and coming travel destinations, we're here to turn that wanderlust into an altruistic adventure as a volunteer in Africa.
But where exactly should you volunteer (it is, after all, an enormous continent made up of fifty-three countries)? Glad you asked!
We're certain you've never seen a travel bucket list as meaningful and impactful as this one.
Read on, because we at Go Overseas have paired up with the volunteer-in-Africa savvy folks at African Impact to bring you the top destinations to volunteer in Africa this year.
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Curieuse Island
- Best Time to Go: Year-round but especially May - November
This archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean may not be the first destination that comes to mind when talking about volunteering in Africa, but if you're interested in marine conservation, it probably should be.
The opportunity to conserve Seychelles' wildlife as a volunteer put it on our top 10 list of volunteer destinations in Africa.
Beyond its quintessential island beauty and honeymooner-hotels, lies a phenomenal -- though fragile -- ecosystem. Home to some of the most exotic birds and marine life in the world, simply having the opportunity to glimpse these creatures is enough for most to travel to the far flung Seychelles.
However, it's the opportunity to conserve this wildlife for future generations as a volunteer that put Seychelles on our top 10 list of volunteer destinations in Africa. Hopefully, it's made it on yours as well!
- Popular Projects: Education and wildlife conservation
- Top Volunteer Destinations: The whole island, silly!
- Best Time to Go: June - October
Zanzibar, a small island off the coast of Tanzania known as the "spice island" has been on our radar for awhile now. After all, a time-warped tropical island dotted with Indo-Arabian architecture is just something you have to see for yourself -- Don't leave it to the photos.
Zanzibar may be small, but it packs in a punch as a volunteer destination in Africa.
But why settle for simply sipping cocktails from your hotel's rooftop bar when you could be contributing to the conservation of their fragile marine habitat, local education efforts, or raise animal rights awareness instead? Zanzibar may be small, but it packs in a punch as a volunteer destination in Africa.
- Popular Projects: Youth development, Education, and Healthcare
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Accra, Elmina, and Cape Coast
- Best Time to Go: November - April
True, British Airlines noted Ghana as one of it's top destinations to travel to in 2015 because of Panafest, a biennial festival for pan-African culture, but the vibrant, West African nation has long attracted do-gooders with a sense of adventure.
Volunteers in Ghana get a chance to work and live in a culture unlike anything else in the anglophone world.
With beautiful architecture, beaches, a warm climate, and equally warm and welcoming people, it's a hard country not to fall in love with.
We'll warn you now though: it's an even harder country to resist helping through one of the many different volunteer projects, NGOs, and organizations working there. Especially since Ghana's lingua franca is English (on top of dozens of tribal languages) volunteers get a chance to work and live in a culture unlike anything else in the anglophone world, while making a bigger impact.
- Popular Projects: Conservation and community development
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Fort Dauphin / Anosy region, Ranomafana, Diego
- Best Time to Go: June - September on the coast; May & September in the highlands
"Wait, wait -- Madagascar? You mean like the movie?" You say.
"No silly -- we mean like the huge and environmentally diverse island off the east coast of Africa!" We respond.
Although Madagascar is one of the least developed nations on earth, and for most of its short political history has struggled to (for lack of better words) get it's stuff together, travelers to this island nation won't be disappointed.
From the sparkling waters off the coast of Ile Saint Marie and Tulear to majestic baobabs and lush, lemur-dotted rainforests, Madagascar is full of otherworldly landscapes.
Madagascar is a rough-and-tumble sort of volunteer adventure.
Unfortunately, lack of development has created a need for volunteers to work with local communities to develop sustainably, conserve at-risk lemurs and marine life, and do what they can to better the quality of life in Madagascar.
All in all, Madagascar is a rough-and-tumble sort of volunteer adventure, but we'd be surprised if you didn't come away from there without a new found love for it's nature, people, and -- of course -- a hearty appetite for rice!
- Popular Projects: Healthcare, education, and wildlife research
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Masai Mara, Limuru, Mombassa
- Best Time to Visit: July - September & January - March
When it comes to volunteer destinations in Africa, Kenya is like a trusty old friend. English is an official language, and travel there is relatively easy. It's developed enough that you can find almost anything you'd need. Outside the big cities, travelers are free to explore the Great Rift Valley, Masai Mara, vast savannas and steep mountains.
We'll always love Kenya as a volunteer destination.
When it comes to developing further, there is so much local innovation among Kenyans, a booming tech-industry, and an overall desire to become a better nation. Top that with a genuine, welcoming, and laid-back population, and you've got yourself a great environment for volunteer projects to thrive.
We'll always love Kenya, but with rising safety concerns in 2013/2014, there's another East African nation that's caught even more of our attention... (psst, it's #3 on our list!)
- Popular Projects: Teaching & Education
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Kampala, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Jinja
- Best Time to Go: May - October & December - February
Take every image of "Africa" you've ever had -- vast savannas, bustling cities, and grazing antelope. Now, add to them lusciously green rainforests, enormous silverback gorillas, roaring Nile river rapids, and a surprisingly cosmopolitain and shady capitol. There. Now you have Uganda.
Uganda offers a surprising amount of volunteer opportunities for its size!
Among one of the most searched for volunteer abroad destinations in 2014 (Source: Go Overseas 2014 Volunteer Abroad report), it's staying on our radar for 2015. Beyond its tourist attractions, there's still a large need for development -- especially in the education, health, and childcare sectors -- that plays a large role in preserving Uganda's precious natural resources.
Again, like Ghana, English is an official language (in addition to Swahili), which helps volunteers increase their impact, but this country also offers a surprising amount of volunteer opportunities for its size!
- Popular Projects: Wildlife conservation
- Top Volunteer Destinations:
- Best Time to Go: Good year-round; best September - October
We know you've seen that classic Namibia photo before: golden sand dunes contrasted against a purple-blue sunset, wildlife grazing in the foreground. But did you know those vibrant desert sands belong to a recently named UNESCO world heritage site?
As a volunteer in Namibia, you'll get the opportunity to help this renowned safari destination -- from other side.
In addition to having its Coastal Desert recently named a UNESCO world heritage site, Namibia has a lot to celebrate this year. It's the young country's 25th anniversary of independence and it was awarded the World Wildlife Fund's Gift of the Earth Award for its progress in conservation.
As a volunteer, you'll get the opportunity to help this renowned safari destination -- from other side. By assisting in wildlife conservation and community development, you'll be able to play a role in Namibia's efforts in environmental conservation and come to know this incredible nation on a whole other level.
- Popular Projects: Education, healthcare, and community development
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Zanzibar
- Best Time to Visit: Depends on region
African Impact and Go Overseas are no newbs to all that Tanzania has to offer volunteers. Even without its recent add to the New York Times' list of 52 places to go in 2015, we still would've included this spectacular East African nation on our top 10 list!
For volunteers who want to explore East Africa but get further off the beaten path, Tanzania is our top choice for 2015.
In general, volunteering in Tanzania is incredibly similar to volunteering in Kenya -- the culture is vibrant and complex, wildlife are as common as pigeons are in New York, and its home to wild plains, glistening beaches, and the highest mountain in Africa: Kilimanjaro.
Compared to Kenya, Tanzania is slightly less developed, less traveled, and English is less common. For volunteers who want to explore East Africa but get further off the beaten path, Tanzania is our top choice for 2015.
- Popular Projects: Wildlife conservation and education
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Zambezi National Park, and Gweru
- Best Time to Visit: April - October
The landlocked, central African nation of Zimbabwe was once much avoided by travelers and volunteers alike because of political unrest. That's not the case anymore. Zimbabwe is finally stable, safe, and back on our radar.
Don't just visit Zimbabwe, volunteer abroad in Zimbabwe!
However, with an abundance of wild game, prime white-water rafting, and the largest waterfall in the world -- Victoria Falls -- it won't take long before Zimbabwe makes it on everyone else's radar as well. Which is why we say, visit Zimbabwe in 2015.
Actually, don't just visit -- because hey, wait, this article is about volunteering, right? -- volunteer in Zimbabwe. Help this recently stable nation continue in the right direction. Get involved in education or wildlife conservation. Spread HIV/AIDS awareness. Explore, engage, and make the most of your time in Zimbabwe.
1. South Africa
- Popular Projects: Wildlife research & conservation, HIV/AIDS prevention, childcare, sports & coaching
- Top Volunteer Destinations: Durban, Cape Town, and St. Lucia
- Best Time to Visit: Depends on region
If you hadn't noticed yet, South Africa has been blowing up in the travel sphere lately. From New York Times to Telegraph and many smaller (though no less loved!) bloggers and travel experts in between, South Africa has been popping up all over the place as an up-and-coming (and perhaps already arrived?) travel destination.
With the big five and big wines, we're thrilled South Africa is finally getting the positive attention it deserves.
Despite South Africa's burgeoning tourism industry and economic advancements, there are still volunteer opportunities in just about every sector -- from wildlife and conservation to HIV prevention and childcare. Fortunately African Impact has dozens of volunteer projects in South Africa, meaning you're sure to find a project that fits your interests, skills, and even age (or ages, if you're traveling as a family!)
It's exactly this variety of volunteer projects, vibrance of culture, and opportunities to explore that has sent SA soaring to the top of our list of places in Africa to Volunteer in 2015! With the big five and big wines, we're thrilled this spectacular nation is finally getting the positive attention it deserves.Photo Credits: African Impact and Jessie Beck